So close, and yet so far...
"Subject's anatomy suggests a highly developed species of analogous physical durability to mankind. Physical structure, general organic processes and reproductive anatomy all show remarkable similarities. Is this racial parallelism purely coincidental?"
— An Imperial Scholar
's research notes on a Tau
There are Human Aliens
which are indistinguishable from humans (at least on the outside appearance). Then there are Rubber-Forehead Aliens
, which look like humans but with some minor differences.
Then there are Humanoid Aliens that have the general shape of a human, but definitely look nothing like us. Be it a different number of fingers, different skin, feathers, whatever. Only similarity they need is one head, two arms, two legs, and a generally upright stance, tail and/or wings optional. Any further deviation from the humanoid form is likely to result in Starfish Aliens
Like Human Aliens
and Rubber-Forehead Aliens
, the prevalence of this trope — in live-action TV in particular, though also in movies and comics and other primarily visual media — tends to have a lot to do with the need to create something that human actors can comfortably portray, that human artists can conveniently and quickly draw, and that human viewers/readers can intuitively empathize with (and they tend to stay farther away from the Uncanny Valley
than more human-looking aliens, and are thus less frightening). However, theories of convergent evolution
(the idea that similar environments facilitate similar patterns of isomorphic development in different species) may make this more of a Justified Trope
, at least so far as creating believable situations of dramatic interaction. Given that we've only seen a grand total of one planet with a biosphere and intelligent life, we have no way of knowing how realistic or unrealistic
this trope is.
May overlap with Petting Zoo People
or Intelligent Gerbils
. Ursine Aliens
often fall under this, since bears can appear very humanoid by themselves.
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Anime And Manga
- Dragon Ball Z - The Saiyans could fall into either this or Human Aliens. Aside from them, the vast majority of aliens are in this category. Though most are possessed of unusual height, horns, elongated heads, a tail, etc., a handful are simply human forms with the only deviation being unnaturally-colored skin - Jeice and Sauzaa come to mind.
- It's been revealed that Jeice and Salza were actually both members of the same species.
- Alien's Xenomorphs.
- The Xenomorphs are excused, since they take on the traits of their hosts. In Alien 3 we see one that was a quadruped because it burst from a dog, AVP 2 has one that look like a Predator, including the "dreadlocks" and mandiblades (fits into the trope, but solely because the Yautja host does.) Other examples are fully straight.
- Even more so, the Predators (Yautja).
- In Prometheus the proto-Xenomorph "Deacon". Its former host, the Engineer, straddles the line between this and Human Aliens.
- The Na'vi from Avatar are ten-foot-tall, blue-skinned, yellow-eyed, cat-nosed, four-fingered and four-toed (note, however, the titular Half-Human Hybrid Avatars have five), with what is essentially an organic network cable that looks like a braided ponytail.
- Animals on Pandora are in two main types; four-limbed and six-limbed. Some people claim that there are no other four-limbed animals, but have not checked their facts.
- Seeing as how the life on Pandora is connected by a 'brain-like' biological network, it's possible that the evolution of life on the planet was guided by this mind. This would also explain why the Na'vi are capable of linking their minds with every other animal, which would require an improbable amount of co-evolution from a Darwinian standpoint. Pandora's biology is not necessarily Earth's biology.
- They were evolved from the same ancestor as the ape-like Prolemuri which have four partially fused arms with two fingers on each. The Na'vi just had those arms fuse together all the way.
- The aliens in District 9 have two legs, one head and two eyes, but that's as much as they have in common with humans. They have four arms including the smaller, almost vestigial arms house in their torso. They largely resemble seven-foot tall humanoid cockroaches, and even their vocal chords are too alien to try to mimic human speech.
- The title character in Paul.
- The aliens in Wham Bam Thnak You Spaceman
- Many aliens in Star Wars (jointly described as humanoids, in fact). Famous examples include the Aqualish (walrus-like humanoids, pictured above); Trandoshans (lizard-like humanoids); and Gamorreans (pig-like humanoids). The other common kind is the rubber foreheaded near-humans, who share an ancestry with baseline humans, though there are some genuine examples of Starfish Aliens. There are also cyborgs (some human and some not) and crossbreeds of similar (usually hominid or vaguely hominid) species.
- This trope plays out in the Alterien series by Adam R. Brown.
- He's an exceptionally tall man with many of the same features as Alteriens in their true form. However, he has rounded ears and polydactyly on both his hands and feet. He has five fingers and a thumb on each hand and six toes on each foot. Apart from that, he looks very similar to humans.
- The Alteriens in their true form are like this with their pointed ears, somewhat larger than normal heads and eyes for their respective builds and lack of eyebrows. Additionally, the only hair on their entire bodies is from their heads. They were modeled after the Sisters of Orion and other similar Shanda'ryn hybrids.
- Larry Niven averted this for the most part in his Known Space universe, but used the Kzinti, who are cat people.
- The striivic-na in the Warchild Series have the general shape of humans, plus/minus a few details...
- In Childhood's End, the Overlords superficially look somewhat human, but on closer examination are far more alien.
- Most of the alien races in Revelation Space are Starfish Aliens, but the Amarantin were humanoid birds.
- The Ra'zac of the Inheritance Cycle.
- Molt Brother
- Robert Westall's Urn Burial's Fefethil and Wawaka cat people and dog people, respectively. Starfish Aliens do get a mention, but none appear as characters.
- The Destroyermen series takes place on an alternate Earth where the Cretaceous extinction apparently never happened. The two dominant species are the Mi-Anaaka (called Lemurians by the titular destroyermen), a humanoid species descended from Madagascar's lemurs, and the Grik, a species of predatory dinosaur descendants that look pretty much like their ancestors.
- Both played straight and also frequently averted by E.E. "Doc" Smith.
- The inhabitants of the Skylark universe's Green system and even the monstrous Fenachrone fit into the same general framework of 'upright biped' as do humans and the Jelmi are indistinguishable from humanity, but the Chlorans are utterly alien.
- Frequently averted in the Lensman universe, however. True, there are a lot of non-Earth-origin species which fit this trope, but the degree to which utterly alien species are to be found on both sides of the conflict (and especially among the "good guys") stands out even today. Barring his wife Clarissa, eventually, not one of Kim Kinnison's fellow Second-Stage Lensmen is even remotely human in appearance. One of them (Nadreck) can't even coexist in the same room without special equipment, and even with it he can't stay very long.
- In Wen Spencer's Ukiah Oregon series, Hex and Prime, the only survivors of the initial Ontongard invasion force, had bodies that looked largely human, but with all black eyes, strangely textured hair, and slightly odd proportions.
- The Parshendi of The Stormlight Archive are of generally humanoid shape, but have marbled black and red skin and are limited shapeshifters, able to assume a number of different forms as needed (including warform, which causes them to grow armor plate; workform, which is strong but nonviolent; and mateform, which is capable of reproduction).
- Many of the species in the My Teacher Is an Alien series, although there are quite a few examples of Starfish Aliens as well. The ones closest to human in shape, Broxholm, Kreeblim, and Hoo-Lan, can pass for human if they wear Latex Perfection disguises, though only Hoo-Lan is close enough to be a borderline Human Alien (though child sized and blue).
Live Action TV
- Farscape species with repeat appearances:
- Hynerians - 2-3 foot tall stumpy limbed frogs with really big eyebrows.
- Scarrans - Giant lizard men. Range from human but scaly to space tyrannosauruses.
- The Ancients - Insectoid, but generally look human via Voluntary Shapeshifting. And that's just the ones that have been altered to survive in our dimension; we don't even glimpse what the True Ancients really look like.
- Diagnosans - Skeleton thin, two slits instead of a nose, and a bulbous head.
- Some aliens in Star Trek, such as the Breen and the Gorn. Most tend to be of the rubber forehead and human variety though.
- Babylon 5 had several, like the Narn and the Pak'Mara.
- In Andromeda, the Than-Thre-Kull and the Magog.
- The various Stargate franchises have mostly Human Aliens, but several species are different:
- The Asgard are The Greys.
- The Unas are tribal Lizard Folk.
- The Ohne are advanced Fish People, as are the catfish-like aliens of Stargate Universe.
- Jup and Tenat of the Lucian Alliance were the only shown members of an unspecified race who are clearly Rubber-Forehead Aliens.
- The Reol are a race of beige-skinned humanoids with dreads and wrinkly skin who can make you think they're your best friend.
- The Gadmeer are only shown in an image but appear to be bipeds of either reptilian or insectoid type.
- The Ursini in Stargate Universe. Despite the name, they don't look at all bear-like.
- Doctor Who
- Ice Warriors
- Clomians (AKA Abzorbaloffs), from their twin planet
- Cheetah People
- Butterfly People
- The Moxx of Balhoon
- The Graske, from the 2005 interactive game Attack of the Graske
- The Sarah Jane Adventures
- Raxacoricofallapatorians, Sontarans and Graske, like its parent show Doctor Who
- The Shansheeth
- The various unnamed aliens in The Atarians, who are there just so the Atarians themselves have someone to fight.
- Featured among the various aliens in Big Bang Bar.
- In Starfire, the various alien species humanity goes to war with include Cat People (the Khanate of Orion), Bird People (the Ophiuchi), Bear People (the Rigellians), and 4-Armed People (the Gorm).
- The majority of Warhammer 40,000's races are Humanoid Aliens. For example, the Tau are short humanoids with grey-blue skin and hooves, the Orks are large humanoids with green skin and a fungi-based biology and the Kroot are gangly yet disproportionately strong humanoids with avian features and the ability to direct their own evolution. The Eldar, are the most similar looking as their features closely resemble human ones when armoured, but their bodies are almost impossibly thin outside of it. Necrons are formerly biological beings now contained in living metal with a form resembling a skeleton, while some of the more mutated followers of chaos could be considered more humanoid than human.
- In Xenology, a background book, the dissecting bio-technician notes the remarkable similarity between the major races of the setting, and how several of them seem to have been artificially constructed. Humanity may or may not have been made by the same beings that made the Eldar and the Orks among others, which would explain their gross similarity.
- The Hrud straddle the line between this and Starfish Aliens. While early editions of the game had Hrud as spacefaring Rat Men, the design has since been changed to ghastly barely-humanoid shambling things with multi-segmented ribbons for limbs and truely Bizarre Alien Biology. The abovementioned Xenology mentions that Hrud carcasses decompose so quickly it's difficult to find one worth dissecting.
- In some editions it's explained that most of them have a common origin, although how canon this is in the current fluff is up in the air. One story goes that the Necrons were the first humanoids, the Old Ones created the Eldar, Orks and the seldom-seen apelike Jokaeros to fight them, then the Necrons manipulated the evolution of Earth's mammals to create a new Super Soldier race to counter the Old Ones' creations, which eventually became the humans (the experiment was largely considered a failure because the Anti-Magic Pariah Gene they were trying to cultivate turned out to be vanishingly rare). Later on some Eldar scientists (believed to be working for Magnificent Bastard par excellence Eldrad Ulthran) genetically engineered the Tau from a sheeplike animal for as-yet unrevealed reasons, while the Tau's favorite client race, the Kroot were originally birdlike but absorbed some Ork DNA due to their peculiar digestive processes.
- A borderline example is the Kaorti of Dungeons & Dragons. Debuting in the third edition Fiend Folio, these Gigeresque humanoids are the result of either humans or elves (depending on the version of the backstory) experimenting with the Far Realm. The "borderline" descriptor is for two reasons: Firstly, the Far Realm is not the same thing as outer space but is rather an incomprehensible plane of existence inspired by Lovecraftian horror. Secondly, while they do appear superficially anthropomorphic, they otherwise resemble the aforementioned xenomorphs and are composed of a strange, toxic resin instead of bone and flesh.
- In Traveller the Aslan and Vargr are four limbed with two limbs for walking and two for grasping. However their appearance also resembles some Terran animals(lions and wolves respectively). In behavior they are roughly comparable to humans-at least enough for them to vaguely comprehend one another.
- The aliens in Allen The Alien look like humans with antennae.
- The Mentakans in Cwynhild's Loom, as seen in a flashback, are large, purplish humanoids.
- El Goonish Shive
- Uryuoms are humanoid shape shifters who in appearance are a mix of Little Green Men and The Greys but as shapeshifters can appear completely human if they have a human form among their personal cache of possible forms.
- The lespuko being a genetic relative of the uryuom are also humanoid in build but more animalistic than them.
- Most of the alien species seen so far in the webcomic Inhuman are humanoid - it has been mistaken for a Furry comic, to the artist's great annoyance.
- Homestuck has the Cherubs; green skeleton-like things. Trolls -grey, vaguely insect humanoids with grey skin, horns, and fangs- could fit either here or as Rubber-Forehead Aliens.
- Most aliens in Luminary Children look a lot like humans.
- Nearly every alien Ben can transform into, with the only exception being Xlr8,Ripjaws, Wildmutt, Ghostfreak, and technically Four Arms.
- Alien Force introduces more humanoids alien transformations, but also has quite a few non-humanoids, even Starfish Aliens, such as Brainstorm and Goop. There's also Jetray and Spidermonkey, who aren't a Starfish Aliens, but they aren't humanoid either.
- Quite a few in Futurama. The Decapodians, who are humanoid crustaceans. Kiff's species, Nibblonians, and many other species that were never named.
- The Traags/Draags of Fantastic Planet. Aside from their size, they're essentially hairless, blue-skinned, red-eyed humans.
- The Titans and Nebulans in the Transformers Generation 1 cartoon - both have pointy ears and either blue or green skin. In the comic, however, the Nebulans were indistinguishable from humans.
- These are more Rubber-Forehead Aliens, really. The Transformers themselves, on the other hand, definitely qualify. They're Mechanical Lifeforms, but most have one mode with a humanoid body plan... And some even have more than one, for one reason or another, while others have one and are part of another.
- Heck, there's even a small handful of Transformers that don't have humanoid robot modes individually, but are still part of a humanoid Combining Mecha.